Both candidates for Governor were sent the following questionnaire from the Kentucky Association of Professional Educators (KAPE). Matt Bevin’s answers are below. Jack Conway did not respond.
The Kentucky Association of Professional Educators sincerely thanks you for your time and consideration of these questions. KAPE does NOT support or endorse any political candidates. Each candidate for governor was given the same questionnaire. Completed questionnaires will be distributed to all members via mail and social media in an attempt to provide information regarding issues specific to education and educators. Our hope is for all KAPE members to be educated voters and make the decision that is right for them.
There are 14 questions re: the pension crisis, early childhood education, vouchers, home school, teacher raises, fed DOE, Common Core.
KTRS (Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System)
1. If you are governor and legislation passes next session calling for $3.3 billion in bonds to shore up KTRS, will you sign the bill? Why or why not?
This would depend on the specifics of the bill and whether that debt would incur a higher interest rate than we can earn in the investment market.
We need to start by fully funding the teachers’ pension system on a yearly basis so we are not accumulating new debt every year.
The last few years, Democratic leadership has refused to fully fund our public pensions, and have instead been raiding public trusts to cover revenue shortfalls. I believe that this “robbing Peter to pay Paul” must stop immediately. If revenues are earmarked for a specific purpose, they should be used for that purpose. Such transfers can harm necessary programs, raise fees and taxes, and continue to inappropriately push expenses down the road.
Kentucky’s public pension system needs a complete overhaul. Without action, we will not be able to meet our moral and legal obligation to fulfill promises to current and future retirees. This is not acceptable.
As Governor, I will call for an immediate, outside and transparent audit of every single state retirement plan. All resulting information will be made available to the public as we put in place common sense pension reform solutions.
2. If you were a member of the KTRS Work Group, what plan of action would you suggest the group present to the legislature?
In order to fulfill the financial commitment we have made to existing and future retirees, we must move away from the current plan structures and enroll all new hires into a defined contribution (401k/403b-style) plan. Demographic realities now, and into the future, afford us no other viable option.
We must ensure, however, that all future teachers be allowed to participate in Social Security prior to moving from the existing plans. This is not an issue with other state employees.
Early Childhood Education
3. Do you believe Early Childhood Education is important? Why or why not?
As a father of nine, I know that Early Childhood Education is critical. The states that will be most successful in the years to come, both in absolute terms and relative to other states, will invest heavily in education and infrastructure. l feel strongly that money spent on outdated and ineffective programs should be moved to programs proven to provide better results. Anything less is a waste of precious financial resources needed for ensuring a quality education for young people of every age.
I will take a data driven approach, analyzing the myriad of studies and programs, and consulting with early childhood experts and educators. We will analyze how our dollars can be best allocated and utilized to ensure we are getting the best return on investment in our most valuable resource—our children—our future.
As Governor, I would review our options and institute the most effective early childhood education programs available in the country.
4. In your opinion, should early childhood education curriculum focus more on academic or socialization goals? Why?
This shouldn’t be either/or. Earlier this year, Psychology Today reviewed a 30 year study done in Germany that analyzed this exact issue. What is clear, is that we need our young people to be in an educational environment that delivers both academic and social (or “soft”) skills. Both are needed to succeed in life and in the workforce. We need to take a balanced approach based on programs with proven outcomes.
Again, we will review our options and institute the most effective early childhood education programs available in the country.
5. Do you believe that school attendance should be based on residence or left to parental choice? Why?
Parents should be empowered to make the basic choices for their children’s education and be given the opportunity to decide how their children’s education dollars should be used. Therefore, I think more flexibility should be given to parents to make the best choices for their children regardless of where they live.
6. If parental choice, what is your specific plan of implementation?
Parents could be offered scholarship tax credits or educational savings accounts to leverage their own dollars to the school of their choice. This would increase competition among all our schools, ultimately improving the education Kentucky’s children are receiving.
Parents should be entrusted with the ability to make the right educational decisions for their children – they know their children best, and are therefore better equipped to choose the school that is the best fit for their individual families.
At a minimum, I believe we should start with public charter schools as an option for local school boards to consider as an alternative to any failing schools.
7. With regard to home schooling, what is your plan to ensure that a balance is kept between a parent’s right to choose home schooling and ensuring that the education a home school child receives is of quality?
Parents know their children best, and homeschooling allows them to choose and design the curriculum individualized to each child’s needs. Current Kentucky homeschool laws are working, and I see no reason to change what is working. I do believe, however, that as long as the tax dollars of a home schooled child go to the local public school system, home school students should be able to take part in the extracurricular opportunities offered by their local public schools.
8. Should teacher raises continue to be based solely on time served and achievement of rank, or should they be based primarily on merit?
I believe in raising employees’ wages based on performance and merit. We need competitive teacher salaries to encourage the best qualified people to enter the teaching profession and stay in the teaching profession. I believe the best teachers should earn more.
Every day, as a chief executive in the private sector, it is my responsibility to set the appropriate level of compensation for each of my employees based on the value of their time and skills as determined by what the free markets will bear.
This will be my same approach if elected to be the next Governor of Kentucky. As an entrepreneur and small business owner, I understand that great employees should be appreciated and compensated in order to retain their employment.
9. If merit, how do you propose to determine what constitutes behavior worthy of a raise in pay?
Raises should be based on supervisor recommendations and performance reviews on an individual, case by case basis. The metrics should be clear, largely objective and understood by all involved.
10. Cost of living raises are always contentious issues. Do you have a plan to ensure teachers receive regular cost of living raises? If so, how do you propose to fund cost of living raises?
We can fund cost of living raises by growing Kentucky’s economy. My overall goal is to create a more business-friendly environment in the Commonwealth that will result in job creation. This will result in more revenue that can be used in areas like cost of living raises.
Again, I believe we need competitive teachers’ wages to continue to attract the best possible people to the teaching profession.
Federal Department of Education
11. How would you describe the current level of Federal Control over the Kentucky Department of Education and, subsequently, Kentucky schools and teachers? Too little control? An Appropriate amount of control? Too much control?
There is too much federal control over our Kentucky school system.
12. If you chose too much control, what would you, as Governor, do to “balance the scales”?
I believe Kentucky should adopt policies that allow for more local control. Decisions should be made by local school boards, parents and educators that work best for the students in that community.
Local school boards and educators should have more flexibility to tailor each child’s education to his or her needs. Superintendents should have more control in determining staffing.
Additionally, I believe Kentucky must withdraw from the national Common Core Standards, as increasing numbers of other states are doing or have now done. Local school boards, principals, and teachers need the power to set standards and implement curricula that will best serve the needs of their students.
13. Do you believe that the Common Core, Next Generation Science and Social Studies standards are appropriate and rigorous enough for Kentucky students? Why or why not?
I strongly support the use of rigorous academic standards and a proven educational curriculum. This is why I believe Kentucky should set our own standards with flexibility given to local school boards and educators.
In addition, the standards we develop should allow teachers to do what they do best—teach, instead of spending so much of their time being test administrators and completing burdensome paperwork. When our best and most experienced science and math teachers question the direction and results of the new standards (as many have done), we should listen.
14. If you do not agree with Common Core standards, what process would you use to change the standards given the apparent stalemate between the Kentucky House and Senate regarding this issue?
We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are proven, comprehensive and high quality standards we can adopt that are superior to Common Core Standards. Those used for years by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, for example, have proven to be robust, attainable and measurable, and have proven to deliver the best results in both Math and ELA.
The Fordham Institute has long studied and compared various curriculums in a non-partisan fashion. We would do well to review the data and choose to replicate the very best options available for our students. Why settle for less?
As Governor, I would review our options and make sure we have the best possible standards. Such standards would allow for flexibility at the local level while making sure we are giving Kentucky students the highest quality education possible.
Candidate for Governor of Kentucky – Vote November 3rd, 2015!
Kentucky Association of Professional Educators
P.O. Box 24506
Lexington, KY 40524